Colorful Spring Wildflowers Brighten Up Forest Floor

A floral scavenger hunt for the region’s wildflowers allows people to brighten up their spring days with color. Cleveland Metroparks Naturalist Jake Kudrna leads wildflower walks to help people find those springtime hues, part of the Tour of Wildflowers.

“It’s just a way for people to get out and find all the different flower species that they can, and it changes up each year,” Kudrna said. “There’s not a set list that we do every year. There’s so many flowers to choose from.”

There are a couple dozen wildflower species in Northeast Ohio, according to Kudrna. Some bloom earlier in the season, in April, and some bloom in late May. In spring, the trees don’t have leaves yet, which allows sunlight to reach the forest floor and wildflowers to cover the ground.

The wildflowers are a valuable part of the ecosystem. The Cut-leaved Toothwort is a host plant for the endangered West Virginia White butterfly. Caterpillars, deer, and other bugs eat the flowers. Pollinators like bees and flies use the nectar from the flowers to survive.

Humans can benefit from them as well.

“For us, they produce oxygen and a little bit of beauty to look at,” Kudrna said.

People who go on the Tour of Wildflowers can bring pictures of what they find to any Cleveland Metroparks nature center to receive a free packet of wildflower seeds. But Kudrna says some people just use the tour as an excuse to get outside after a long Cleveland winter.

“It’s healthy for you to get out and walk around, which a lot of people, they’re just looking for something to do, and wildflowers are a nice bonus,” Kudrna said. “A lot just feeling a little cabin fever from the winter and want to get out and experience some fresh air.”

Kudrna advises against picking any of the wildflowers in Cleveland Metroparks. It’s not only against the rules of the parks, it’s also bad for the environment. Instead, he says, enjoy with your eyes and through your camera.

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